#5: Aquapazza: Aquaplus Dream Match (PS3/360)
#4: Gravity Rush (PSV)
Not all superheros need to talk as though they've just regrettably answered the phone while on the toilet or play pensive as to whether or not they are vigilantes or murderers. Sometimes they can just be young girls, who have magic cats that let them fly, and have a good heart for the sake of having a good heart, and boy does that make Gravity Rush refreshing.
Gravity Rush is an open-world game that follows the story of Kat, an amnesiac who suddenly wakes up in a floating city. With the aid of an otherworldly, magical cat, Kat has the ability to bend gravity, fly, and, most importantly, kick serious villain/time-morph creature butt. It's a lengthy journey that wields a floaty, passive aesthetic that really is all about just letting you decide on how to proceed. Side-quests are abundant, and the spacious cities are decorated with a plethora of collectibles to find and collect, not to mention that they are each simply gorgeous and a real treat to just loiter around in. It's the main-quest though, and its subtly melancholy tale, that is the real draw. The plot moves at an arresting pace; each mission holds significance to the story at-hand, keeping you on attention and immersed while increasingly decorating you with new combos and abilities. It shows the growth of a superhero enigmatically well; while the journey has up's and down's, doubts and terrors, light and darkness, it never loses sight that it is Kat that is the protagonist, and by focusing on her, and her reactions to the strange, distorted world around her, that Gravity Rush really champions from all fronts, be it as a videogame, a story, or experience.
#3: Sine Mora (PS3/PSV/360)
Akin to #5, I am also not very skilled at Shmumps. No less, when I saw some of the outrageously cool boss designs from Sine Mora and learned that the majority of them were drawn by a Mahiro Maeda (Animatrix, Kill Bill), I decided that I just had to see them all.
Fortunately, the game is excellent also, and despite it coming out of Grasshopper Studios and Digital Reality, this is certainly one of their most grounded and mature works. Telling a highly captivating story of time-travel and political unrest, Sine Mora is a very unique shmump that does away with the majority of the genre's conventions and focuses instead on exciting cinematics, fleshed out scenery, and emotional aesthetic to deliver a concise, complete sensation and reward for what is a very challenging game. And by challenging I mean really freaking hard, and this is exactly what makes it such a unique game; I've never known a title to truly instill so great a sense of "betterment," and from the first moment you muck up or are caught off guard you won't go throwing the controller (or your expensive Vita) but instead getting focused, trying again, and doing better, inch by rewarding inch. It's odd to explain, but despite Sine Mora seemingly getting off on watching your continues be shredded off like warm cheese, it never laughs or mocks you. Truly, Sine Mora wants to be conquered, and that's what makes it so inviting. It can be done, and it's in you, the gamer, putting the effort out there that really makes this title so remarkable and memorable.
#2: Project Diva f (PSV)
Like every import-gamer out there when this series comes up, I'm afraid I have to get this out of the way.
I LOVE MIKU <33333
But seriously, the Project Diva series is truly something special. A rhythm game that holds a simple mechanic of just pressing whatever buttons appear on screen, Project Diva is a hip title that offers something I can only describe as "happiness" when you play it. The music selection is modern but varied, from J-pop through rock n'roll, and the background music videos, usually displaying Miku and friends in either sentimental or all-together ridiculous scenarios, are a real treat. Everything about the game is colorful and delightful, and paired beside what is a consistently thoughtful compillation of music selections, the series just succeeds time and time again. It's one of those games that I really just can't suggest enough for someone to go and see it for themselves, and fortunately Project Diva f does have a demo (two of the PSP titles do also!). Honestly, just go try this game; I'm sure you'll be back wondering why the hell I didn't make it the #1 on my list!
#1: E.X. Troopers (PS3/3DS)
The "Hunting" genre has become an absolutely mammoth success since the release of the Monster Hunter games, and here is another title for the genre from the MH creators themselves, Capcom. This time though, it's E.X. Troopers, a spin-off of the Lost Planet series, and it's an absolutely aces experience that delivers time and time again.
Following the exploits of Bren Turner and his sudden enrollment at an academy for snow pirates, E.X. Troopers isn't necessarily "breaking walls" with anything it does. The story and characters tend to pursue rather typical, anime-established conventions (they are unique, but they ride the established line stiffly despite), and even the gameplay holds what is a certain conservatism, in actually fighting monsters as well as upgrading equipment. That said, while E.X. Troopers doesn't bring much of anything new to the table, it certainly finalizes on what is already established, and offers what is in my opinion the slickest, most stable, downright enjoyable gaming experiences of the year.
What is unique about E.X. Troopers is really just how fun it is. Truly, you can do a checklist of conventions here (Hub-town, Rock-Paper-Scissors elements, Materials), but for some reason E.X. Troopers blasts through. The music is a thrilling album of electronic music, the cel-shaded graphics, from the watery snow levels through to the reds and browns of desert levels, are captivating, and the characters, despite their cliches, are all very personable and filled with encouraging, mood-elevating quips and cheers. Playing through the story, despite it being just mission after mission, is a blast, and by the time you're nearly through, with absolutely boss weapons and refined skills at taking down three-story high Akrid monsters, taking it online and challenging the insanely difficult missions with others is just a ceaseless enjoyment, and really just does what videogames alone can offer. E.X. Troopers is just one of those titles that just came along at the right time; sometimes you really don't need to do anything new, and just present what has been there all along.